I have always been interested in Ayurveda, which is the sister science to yoga. Ayurveda is the world’s oldest healing system. It was developed thousands of years ago in India and based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body and spirit.
One of the important components of Ayurveda is developing a Dinacharya–or daily routine. We can teach our youngest yogis about developing a daily routine early on. The development of this daily routine will help bring balance into their lives. There are several parts to the daily routine: gratitude, early-to-bed and early-to-rise, clean the face, mouth and eyes, evacuation, clean the teeth, oil the ears, bathing, healing scents, hydration, tongue scraping, gargling, nasal drops, self-massage, exercise, pranayama and meditation.
I’m going to focus on the first one: Gratitude. This would seem to be a simple practice to bring into your daily routine, but how many times during the day do we focus on gratitude? It is easy to get caught up in the negative energy of complaining. We need to gently remind ourselves what we actually are grateful for. Here are some simple exercises that we can adapt in our yoga classes for children (but even if you teach an adult yoga class, you can think about incorporating a gratitude time into that practice as well):
- Draw what the children are grateful for and share the pictures with the class. This activity assists the children with their creativity, writing, sequencing and speaking skills. Even the youngest child is capable of drawing a picture. You can give an easy direction like “draw what makes you happy or what you are thankful for.”
- Play a round of “Orange You Grateful.” Pass an orange (or a ball, stuffed animal, or beanbag) using only your feet around a circle while saying what you are thankful for. Encourage the children to think wider than the usual answers, like, “mom and dad.” Yes, we should be grateful for our parents but encourage the children to focus outside, and even inward. Being grateful for themselves, each other, our minds, and opportunities to learn. Taking it to another level, what is the group grateful for? Make a list in class and discuss each one.
- If you have older students, have the children write in gratitude journals. Children bring in a notebook to label and decorate. When children make something or design it for themselves, they are more likely to continue this practice. Have the children keep it with their yoga mat and bring it to class, sharing in each class something from their journal. The children can also cut out pictures or draw in the journal making the journal age-appropriate for all levels.
- Affirmations are powerful spoken moments of gratitude. You can repeat this each morning before stepping out of bed. Some examples are (you may substitute “Universe” or “God” or any other appropriate word for “Divine”):
Divine, you are inside me, you are all around me, you are with me.
Thank you to the Divine spirit for this beautiful day before me.
May joy, peace and love be a part of my day.
Bringing your hands together in prayer pose, touching your heart center with your thumbs, closing your eyes and tilting the chin to the chest may you know love, may you feel love and may you be love. Namaste. (I always end my yoga class for adults and children with these words.)
So, what are you grateful for today? How will you incorporate gratitude into life on and off the mat? What can we do daily to express gratitude to those around us? A hug? A kind word? Opening a door? A thank you?